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Safety Plans

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • Personal safety plans help survivors to identify and mitigate risks of future violence and identify strategies to enhance their safety (including for their children). Such plans may be developed by the woman with the support of police, survivor advocates, shelter staff, counsellors or other service providers (UNODC, 2010).

  • The plans should focus on risk identification and mitigation, and can include multi-agency supports and responses, such as police, counsellors, courts, bail supervisors and health-care providers. A safety plan involves the systematic review of all facts that affect (positively and negatively) a woman’s safety and are tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the particular woman involved.

  • It is essential that police and other professionals support the woman or girl at risk to develop a feasible, implementable plan herself, facilitating the process so the plan is created with and by the survivor (rather than for them), so they are at the centre of its development of and feel ‘ownership’ over the strategies and actions identified.  

  • Key elements of a safety plan include:

    • An advance plan of how to respond in different situations, including crisis

    • Identification of the different options that may be available (for leaving, where to stay, who to seek assistance from)

    • Creating a list of important and emergency telephone numbers (for example, the local police station or police domestic violence unit, shelter or other survivor organization; doctor; emergency hotline; or other trusted contact) 

    • Teaching children how to call emergency numbers, and what they would need to say (for example, their full name, address and telephone number)

    • Identifying trusted neighbours who can be contacted in an emergency. Individuals will need to be informed of the situation and asked to call the police if they hear sounds of a violent attack

    • Practicing an escape plan to ensure the woman and her children/ other dependents can safely leave in an emergency

    • Packing an emergency bag for herself and any children, and hiding it somewhere safe (for example, at a neighbour's or friend's house), avoiding mutual friends or family where it could be found by the abuser. The emergency bag should include:

      • essential documents such as identification documents (passports, birth certificates, insurance cards, etc.); housing-related documents (e.g. lease, rental agreement, land title); welfare/ social security cards

      • keys for the home, car or office

      • addresses/ phone numbers of important contacts;

      • money, bankbooks, and credit and debit cards;

      • medications or prescriptions;

      • jewellery (which may be sold for cash if needed),

      • clothing and basic supplies for herself and her children; and 

      • photographs, diaries, favourite toys or small items of sentimental value

    • Keeping a small amount of money available at all times - including change for the phone and for bus/ transportation fares

    • Knowing where the nearest phone is, or keeping a mobile phone nearby

    • Being prepared to leave the house in an emergency

    • When possible, children should be taken when leaving, since it may be difficult to gain access to them later

    • When an incident of violence is about to take place, moving to a lower risk area of the home - for example where there is an exit to another room or ideally, outside and access to a telephone. Spaces to avoid include the kitchen or garage, where there may be knives or other weapons; and rooms which can trap the woman, such as the bathroom, or where she might be shut into a closet or other small space.

Adapted from: Barron, Jackie for Women’s Aid UK. 2009. “The Survivor’s Handbook.” Women’s Aid UK. London.


Key tools

Responding to Domestic Violence: A Handbook for the Uganda Police Force (Turyasingura for Center for Domestic Violence Prevention CEDOVIP, 2007). This handbook provides background information on the problem of domestic violence as an abuse of human rights and provides guidelines on how to interview the victims, children who are affected by domestic violence as both victims and witnesses, and the perpetuators of domestic violence. Available in English.

The Survivor’s Handbook (Women’s Aid UK, 2005). The handbook provides practical information for women experiencing domestic violence, with simple guidance on every aspect of seeking support. Available in English

Domestic Violence Safety Plan (American Bar Association). This brochure is a resource for survivors of domestic violence and their advocates in the United States. The brochure outlines steps that survivors can take to improve their safety in their home, at work and other public spaces, in court and for their children; provides an overview of measures the court may take to protect survivors; and the contact information for a national domestic violence hotline. Available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese; 2 pages.

Safety Planning (CAADA). This webpage provides steps and a checklist for conducting safety planning, based on the context in the United Kingdom. Available in English.

Safety Planning (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). This webpage provides tips and links for women or who have been abused or sexually assaulted, with guidance tailored for women in rural communities, in urban areas, and on college campuses, based on the context in the United States. Available in English.

Safety Plan (North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence). This webpage provides women in abusive relationships with guidance for considering options and a checklist to help with safety planning, based on the context in the United States. Available in English.

Model Protocol on Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Victims with Disabilities (Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2003). This resource is for domestic violence agencies. The protocol and policy recommendations aim to improve domestic violence agency safety planning services for people with disabilities and enable people with disabilities to participate in safety planning while recognizing the various environmental and social challenges they face. Guidance is provided for safety planning in both crisis situations as well as longer-term planning, with considerations for different disabilities and specific skills to enhance safety outlined in the protocol as well. Available in English.